The summer of ’96 found me living alone in Boston, and just beginning to feel my way around as a gay man. I was working at the Structure store at Faneuil Hall, and I would ride the T to Back Bay Station at the end of my shift, joining the other workers heading home after a long hot week. The subway was unbearably hellish – once that heat gets in, it’s there for the whole summer, no matter how cool the nights or rainy and dismal the days. It’s the kind of heat that hits you hard, like a wall. You can physically feel it knock into you, and no matter how accustomed you may be to warm weather it’s always a shock.
On this Friday afternoon, I trudged wearily up the steps into the air-conditioned subway car. It was small relief. Looking around at the other passengers, I had one of those brief thoughts of “This really, really sucks but we’re all in this together.” (I don’t get those thoughts very often – I’m usually quite happy to remain miserably isolated from the sweaty masses.)
The woman in front of me must have been feeling it too, for she fanned herself and gave a weak smile. Her bundle of dreadlocks was tied simply behind her head and she held a leather briefcase. She looked put together, despite the requisite city sneakers, and the oppressive heat.
“I think a vodka gimlet at Sonsie’s would hit the spot right now,” she said to no one in particular. I smiled and nodded, even though at the time I had no idea what a vodka gimlet was. “You know, the kind with fresh lime juice. Sonsie’s makes them the best.”
I sat there sweltering, picturing the sophisticated scene at Sonsie’s and feeling like I’d never belong there, or anywhere, and wishing I had just a small bit of this woman’s ease and confidence.
It was the summer I had long hair, so I must have been a sorry sight with my sad little ponytail and baggy Structure wardrobe, melting into the seat behind her, but I was watching and learning, and becoming.Back to Blog